China, ASEAN Countries Hold Joint Naval Drill

Clay Curtis
August 5, 2018

China has responded to criticism for militarizing the strategic waterway by claiming it has the right to build on its territory and defend them at all costs.

The "table-top" exercises at a Singapore naval base came ahead of the first naval drills between the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Beijing, scheduled for October. They monitored developments on three giant screens, including one showing the location of a collision between an oil tanker, which supposedly caught fire, and a passenger ship that sank and scattered people in the high seas.

Last year, the release of the customary communique at the end of the meetings was delayed with reports suggesting that there was a lack of consensus on how to refer to disputes in the South China Sea.

Captain Liang Zhijia of the Chinese navy said the simulated and field drills are good platforms to build trust and confidence. It has often raised alarm over China's assertive actions, including its construction of islands where it has placed weapons including surface-to-air missiles.

In its joint statement, ASEAN also reiterated its commitment to wrap up a major trade pact backed by China, against the backdrop of protectionist trade policies adopted by the United States, and urged progress towards peace and stability on a denuclearised Korean peninsula.

Singapore assumed the rotating presidency of the meeting.

Pompeo met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday for talks.

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Asked if the negotiations will address whether or not the COC will be legally binding, the diplomat, who requested anonymity, said, "We're not there yet".

In the draft text, Beijing suggests that China and the 10 Asean states should carry out joint military exercises regularly.

The U.S. has recently increased patrols in the contested waters to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight there. "This is a breakthrough for the COC (code of conduct) negotiation".

"They remain firmly in place", she said, calling for other countries to fully enforce United Nations sanctions until North Korea denuclearizes.

"We all have common interest and we should work together. We exchanged views with Minister for Foreign Affairs Bishop on further developing economic relations, cooperation in the fight against terrorist organizations and regional issues", Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.

China has overlapping territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea with several Asean members, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In the bloodiest confrontations, China clashed with Vietnamese forces in the Paracel Islands in 1974, leaving 74 South Vietnamese dead.

As well as trade, Friday's meeting will also cover security issues such as South China Sea disputes and North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

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